MOBILE butty vans sell greasy sausages, curled up bacon and burnt toast, right? Wrong – or not at Joanne Haworth’s designer gaff.
Her ‘On The Kerb’ van is a work of art. Sleek and black, it is adorned with a beautiful Victorian image of little girls in brightly-coloured hats eating their lunches from the kerbside.
Another rather unsusual aspect is the menu. She sells such high-end comestibles as home-made watercress and rocket soup with a roll for £1.50, Spanish Panina with chorizo, tortilla and salsa for £3.50 and even a Skinny Caesar Salad with low calorie dressing. Talk about gourmet on the go!
But skinny salad? For truckers? “Absolutely,” says Joanne, 42. “I’ve got one who’s lost about a stone because he’s swapped burgers and sausages for skinny salads.” So much for Yorkie man.
Joanne, a former online marketer from Padiham, has a glamorous assistant in her niece 19-year-old Lilie Eatough. The posh butty babes must appear as tasty as bacon and eggs – that’s locally-reared and free-range, of course – on a cold Monday morning to the army of hungry truckers.
“Well, I did get a couple of traveller boys trying to steal Lilie. They said, ‘Can we grab her. She’d look really good in my caravan and she’s obviously used to working in one.’ We also get lots of lorry drivers beeping at us as they go past.
"We’ve also got 247 followers on Facebook, but I think that’s more to check out our specials. My cottage pie flies out. In fact, some of our regulars will do detours because they know they will get a decent meal with us.
“Some people can be a bit cheeky though. I had one lady who wanted to take a picture of the van. I said ‘yes, sure’ and she told me to get out of the pic. I think she wanted to copy the idea. Then I’ve got the family from Blackpool who always ask for a hot dog when they know we don’t sell them. I love all our customers though.
“I enjoy my job. And I think I’m supposed to do this because I was pulling the trailer one day, shortly after my dad died, and it suddenly became unhitched and rolled off. It could have been a disaster but it gently rolled into a car park and parked itself up. Think dad was looking after me that day.”
The girls are based in a layby in Altham village six days a week and also cater for Padiham Cricket Club.
Maggie and Brian Butterfield are a double act. In fact, customers to Maggie’s, based in Clayton Business Park, Clayton-le-Moors for the past 14 years, love nothing better than watching the couple having a playful ding-dong.
“It’s very stressful living and working with my wife,” says Brian, 67, with a big grin. “It does work, but we fall out and wind each other up. He spends all his time outside the van, “ Maggie, 57, chips in. “You know before we got married he used to take me to the Isle of Man and buy me chocolates. As soon as we were married 37 years ago all that stopped. He doesn’t even remember my birthday which is ridiculous because his is on April 2nd and mine is April Fool’s Day.”
Brian met Maggie when he was a taxi driver and she – wait for it – worked in a burger bar near the Star and Garter at Blackburn Station. It was love at first fry-up.
Maggie did become manageress of Kentucky Fried Chicken for several years, but had always wanted to have her own place. A mobile cafe was the perfect solution.
“We set up, gave out some cards, but business was really poor. So after a week we were ready to pack it in and come home. Then we started getting all these phone calls from people asking where we were. They’d heard we were there, but we’d scarpered. So we had to get back and tell them we’d had a problem with the van.”
“Maggie does the cooking and I’m the security,” says Brian. Although, the van did get broken into recently despite CCTV in the compoud where it’s secured.
“The cameras are on 24/6 and they only saw a cat. We think it must have been a cat burglar. It’s an interesting life and it gets you up in the morning and there are always plenty of people to talk to.
"It’s hard in summer and winter. When it’s hot it’s boiling. I got the food probe out and it was 109 degrees in the van. When it’s cold in winter it’s freezing and there is ice on the sides.
“You do get some customers who ask you for strange things. One asks if we can take the yolk out of his eggs. Another likes it really runny. One little girl gets chips, beans, cheese, tomatoes, fried onions, salad cream and gravy once a week.
"I don’t know where she puts it all because she’s only about 4ft 9ins. We love what we do, but we do need to get away from it all and chill out. So we spend our weekends at our static caravan in Blackpool.”